As a self-taught artist if you want to make progress you need to take the right classes. In the beginning of my path I wasn’t sure what I should learn first, but as I went along I established five important areas where I had to improve.
Drawing, value, watercolor, color and composition
In this page I want to share the classes that I’ve taken to improve exponentially and get the confidence necessary to start offering commissions.
The secret is to take a class and combine with other skills you have. If you only take the class and start painting like the teacher, it won’t help you improve.
My two best tips:
- Always mix your colors
- Always combine techniques
There are so many books about Urban Sketching out there but I’ve found his technique is the most approachable for me. Although Urban Sketching is lower on my list of things to learn, it is the best way to keep drawing all the time because you only need to carry a small sketchbook, a pen and if you must, a small watercolor kit. This class is worth it. Also, keep an eye for sales because Bluprint often has good deals and they have an affordable subscription service.
Ah.. figure sketching. How much I want to be able to capture people in the everyday. This class is fantastic. Within the first two videos my figures went from stick and stiff to flowy, but this doesn’t mean you become good after just two videos! It just breaks you free from trying to draw everything straight. These two classes with Marc Taro Holmes’ and Suhita Shirodkar’s explanations are very straightforward. Two different approaches but both will help you gain confidence.
Did you know you don’t need all the watercolor tubes in the world?
I took this class earlier in the summer. Kateri Ewing is a master teacher. In this class, she teaches how to mix truly transparent, vibrant and beautiful watercolors with just six tubes. And they are not the typical six. She made a very specific change in two of those so you can get those vibrant reds and violets instead of dull, dead purples and burgundies.
We can’t avoid learning the classical watercolor technique of layering and glazing. It is detailed, meditative, and also very challenging. Although I’m not into realistic painting too much, I do keep a practice of realistic art from time to time. It helps learn to see values, proportions, controlling water, and pigment. The most comprehensive class I’ve taken has been Anna Mason’s Realistic Watercolor Step by Step.
Domestika is a network of classes in Spanish. They have recently introduced subtitles in English so now you can learn from some of the most recognized artists and creatives in a world that you may be ignoring because of the language barrier. Here are a couple that I’ve taken.
Their site is a treasure trove and they usually have amazing sales.
Here are a few of my Domestika Reviews:
Design and illustration of a Fanzine with Violeta Hernández
Ok, so we’ve made the traditional folded zine or we may have created a booklet type of zine, but if you want to go beyond that and create a zine more in the vein of an “artist book”, this class is excellent.
Beyond the technical details, the creative process, examples, and inspiration Violeta will send you running to make your own. Subtitles in English
Botanical Illustration with Watercolours with Paulina Maciel
In this course, you will learn, step by step, how to draw and paint botanical illustrations. Very few classes teach you how to observe and paint in a fine art manner and Paulina does a great job at explaining.
If you like the more classic approach to watercolor, this is the class for you. You’ll learn how to layer, shade and create a final stationery project.
If you are a portrait artist but you still struggle to give dimension to the shadows, the form and to capture expressiveness, this class is really good. It teaches you how to use warm and cool colors so well (at last!).
I also learned some new things about brushes. I usually looked for a good tip I didn’t consider if they held the right amount of water. It’s great to have a mix of instructors so you can combine techniques and ultimately come up with your own. Check it out here (English Subtitles)
From Sketchbook to Painting: Developing Your Ideas in Watercolor
I recently took this class from Creativebug and I absolutely loved it. When we can’t seem to come up with a good idea and we wind up painting the same old thing, a solid process is a must. I loved Lindsay Stripling’s straightforward approach and her simplified method for choosing colors. Creativebug has way too many craft classes but you can find treasures like these.
On a personal note:
I don’t particularly like follow-along projects. I have no interest in learning how to paint a sunflower in watercolor I want a combination of thought-process, tutorials, tips, feedback, and resources.
I find that class production and value are important. I don’t mind paying for classes that will deliver. Of these resources, I completely stand by Design Garden’s classes. Although they are the most expensive I swear I wouldn’t have made the progress I’ve made in terms of design, color mastery and work methods without Sabina’s classes. If I were to start today and had no previous drawing, design or illustration knowledge I would not hesitate to pay for the Foundation class.
In second place, Blueprint classes are more classical art instruction but their videos are fantastically produced and are just the right combination of art theory and practice, unlike other online courses that give you follow-along projects.
Domestika is a top-notch resource. They seek professional working creators that share their know-how generously, they answer questions in the forums even two years after their class has ended.
Skillshare is for me a way to save time, if I’m looking for a particular how-to, I will most likely look up a class there.
These are affiliate resources I appreciate your support in maintaining my arty habit by clicking on the links. I’ve taken and completed all these classes. Check out my Instagram to see the progress thanks to all these incredible instructors.